2 April 2011 is a historic day in my life. India has won the Cricket world cup today and I am a new revert. A revert to being completely and truly Indian.
There are few things that can define an Indian identity. To be an Indian in the year 2011, it would seem reasonable to satisfy two criterion– Love of Cricket, and passion for Bollywood. The rest, as they say, can be compromised. Going by these two criterion, I am supremely unqualified to be called an Indian. The last cricket match I actually watched was in Dubai in the year 2008. Ever since, I haven’t felt the slightest need to go to a TV, turn it on and look for anything to do with Cricket. My bigger crime has been not to have followed the latest in Bollywood. Most of the new film stars are unknown quantities, and when I speak with my cousins or friends back home in India, I struggle to keep up with the developments in both these spheres.
I am surprised my that passport has not been revoked and I haven’t been banned from traveling back to my homeland. My “Indian ness” has been questioned not so much when it comes to politics, but by how much I cheer for my cricket team. A colleague at school today remarked at how stoic I was when the finals between Srilanka and India was on. Though I did enjoy the match, I saw no point in getting all excited about one run being scored.
I can easily blame this lack of interest in Cricket on my dad – a former soccer player, who I am told was pretty damn good at the sport, and even played professionally for his city club in his youth. But that would be washing my hands off a crime that I have committed. While the rest of the country was fascinated with Cricket, my family was busy watching Soccer and Tennis. Soccer World cup and Wimbledon kept up the family for nights at a stretch, with chai, samosas and lots of cheering ( mainly by my dad and brother) . Here I must add my mom’s rather curious interest in Tennis – Steffi Graf was her favorite tennis player. Go figure.
My older brother trained in Field Hockey and in my early childhood, I remember following him with a hockey stick to the field nearby and train for two summers in India’s national sport ; which unfortunately no one cares about today.
And it is totally appropriate to mention here that I trained for another 3 summers in Table tennis, a game that again no one in most of the country cares about, but being from Bangalore, there are a few good sports clubs, and which produced world-class Table Tennis players; there was some encouragement to learn the sport. I did play for my school and also for my under-grad TT team for a brief period of time.
I am so damn good at the sport that i beat group of random chinese students in a park around 5th Avenue NYC last summer. They were amazed at how well I played, despite being an Indian. I just left, leaving them baffled at my superb TT skills. This has been my proudest sporting moment in the USA so far.
And lest i forget, I must mention that I did have my brief fling with Bollywood, when as an impressionable 17 year old, I tried my hand at acting. I attended a summer actors training workshop, organized by the famous Bangalore Little Theatre, which has produced some of the finest theater talent in the country. But this was soon cut-short by my mother’s insistence. She thought I was upto some mischief and in “bad company”, since it involved hanging out with certain “types” of people she did not approve of. I quietly gave up. With this died my passion for theatre, acting and also by association Bollywood.
Coming back to Cricket, I must admit, I did cheer, and celebrate India’s victory. And I genuinely felt happy that we have won the world-cup after 28 long years. But no, I did not cry or call home to congratulate all my cousins, friends and my friends’ cousins. My heart-rate remained pretty stable and normal too. Not much of Adrenaline rush to speak of.
So, here I am, having grown up to be totally un-Indian in my taste of sports; and having been denied my shot at Bollywood by my mother. I reverted again today, with a sincere heart – at trying to love a sport that the British left behind for us – just like the English language, a legacy of sorts; which we are so proud of, that we have made it our own.
With this said, I wonder if I have been re-admitted to the club, and If I am a part of the gang. And I am left wondering: What can I do ? Rail against my fate, blame my parents and society for not making me a “true ” Indian ? Or May be as Mark Twain famously remarked, I will also tell all those who don’t trust me or my conversion back to being a cricket aficionado : “ Alright, I’ll go to hell then”.